how being careful when communicating is a bad thing, and what to do about it — COM103

we have a client that sits through all of our meetings together, browsing the internet and watching half-naked girls on motorcycles. (if you’re reading this, don’t worry, no one knows who you are, and I love you like crazy.)

he’s a client, and he’s old enough to be my father. I can’t tell him to stop it with the girls. there’s a certain amount of respect that you have to maintain. and this is a problem.

because for the next few weeks, this client has been calling for a meeting, and I’ve been declining. I didn’t want to waste my time in our meeting while we browsed the net. and this went on for weeks until I couldn’t delay anymore.

so I decided: ‘the heck with it! I’m gonna tell him. the project isn’t moving forward anyways.’ so I call him up, and naturally he asks for a meeting. I hesitate for a second and then say: ‘ok. but on one condition. without Pamela Anderson please.’


I think to myself: ‘oh shit!’

still nothing.

I wait.

and then I pull enough nerve and say his name.


suddenly I hear a voice: ‘sorry William, I was reading an email. sure thing, no Pamela. you got it, see you tuesday.’

what! he didn’t react? it passed as if I told him to get a file with him? and that’s when I realized that I was being too careful when talking to my customers. could it be that in my head, I exaggerate the tolerance level of other people in getting offended?

I was excited, so I call another customer that has been bothering me, and I talk to him with zero reservations. same reaction: ‘sure William, you got it.’ I call a third: ‘no problem!’ what? no one cares, and I’ve been trying all my life to be careful and not offend people?

I share my realization with hanane, and after great effort, she tries it on 2 occasions with the same results. they don’t care.

and that was one of the biggest lessons that changed my life. in our heads we always exaggerate how sensitive people are to getting offended. and this makes us too careful, to the extent that it breaks communication, and often relationships.

how many times were you talking to someone and knew exactly what he wanted from you, except that he was beating around the bush, afraid to say it as it is. didn’t you feel bad for the person and wished you could tell him: ‘please stop it, I know what you want, and you got it.’

I’ve said that to people, and guess what? they were relieved. don’t let someone feel sorry for you, don’t let yourself feel bad for someone else, and don’t sabotage your relationships; don’t be careful when communicating.  say it as it is. let it out.

update: please read the comments for more insights, and for some tackled exceptions and concerns.

yours, will.

twitter: @

p.s. closely related: the destructive power of ‘but you don’t understand!’ and what to use instead? — COM102


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6 Responses to how being careful when communicating is a bad thing, and what to do about it — COM103

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have a feeling this has an exception. What if you are fully honest with everyone about anything that has to do with them. What happens when their feelings are hurt? Do you say ‘let me explain it this way’?

  2. Anonymous says:

    hahaha! 😀 yes, "i" would. i believe that if people get hurt from your words, then they have a problem they should resolve. of course if i’m aware of this problem that they have, then i try to bring their awareness to it, BEFORE saying what i need to say.most other times, i’m direct, but gentle at the same time.ex: my note about: how religions are the same as Apple, Nike, and the like…( )i know that some people are going to get hurt from my direct thoughts in that note, so i warned them before hand, and i brought their awareness to the problem that they might have. now they’re less likely to get hurt.

  3. Karim says:

    William, do you believe that in some cases, being indirect is helpful? Could human communication be simplified to such a one-for-all solution?

  4. Anonymous says:

    karim: of course you’re right, human communication cannot be simplified to a one-for-all solution. these are the notes that i make to myself so i would remember how to deal with certain situations. this new insight helped me overcome a lot of communication related work & personal obstacles. and without it, my life would have been a lot messier, and full of if this worked for me in a lot of occasions (not all), then i share it with the hope that it will help others as well.p.s. my comment for sherif takes a few exceptions into consideration.

  5. Najwa says:

    " Politeness ruins conversation" – R.W. Emerson : )

  6. Anonymous says:

    <html><head></head><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; ">thank you najwa so true.<br><div><div></div></div></body></html>

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